Nord Pas de Calais Camps Trail
(c) Marcus Roberts (2016). We gratefully acknowledge the support of an anonymous foundation and the Muriel and Gershon Coren Charitable Foundation.


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The Fate of the Local Jewish Community

The department of Nord Pas de Calais had its own small and well established French Jewish community in the larger towns, as well as a community of Jews of Polish origin, who often lived and worked in mining areas, of around 4,000 Jews. Some of the community, were deported in a large transport on the Jewish Festival of Rosh Hashanah, on 11 September 1942, conducted by the German police with the help of the French police. 527 local Jews were arrested and sent to the Lille-Saint-Sauveur. From there they were deported via Mechelen in Belgium, to Auschwitz on 15 September 1942, on Transport X, which had 1,042 Jewish deportees. They arrived on 17 September and most were killed on arrival and only 12 survived the War. All of their property and goods were appropriated by the local French police and German authorities and furniture sent to Paris as part of 'Operation Furniture' to be sorted and given to bombed-out German families as replacement furniture. The archives show that the local authorities and Police cooperated with the Vichy regime and the Nazi regime in identifying and stigmatising the local Jews and then perpetrating the 'Final Solution' in the region and in identifying the victims assets and goods for seizure.

Collaboration and Local Resistance

The civilian French population in the Nord Pas de Calais were generally not sympathetic to the German occupation because of bad memories from the German occupation of the area in World War I. Generally they did not want to help them and they rejected the Vichy regime which collaborated with the Germans. Civilian collaboration was largely limited in the Pas de Calais area to small groups of anti-Semitic extremists based in large towns. However, there was well established anti-Semitic feeling in France, as evidenced in serious anti-Semitic agitation and incidents in Berck before the War.

There was both individual and organised local resistance to the Nazis and a number of local people have been designated as 'Righteous among the Nations' for saving Jews.

Emile Carpentier of Boulogne (1888 - 1948) was a unionist; a keen advocate of human rights, who also became deputy Mayor of Outreau in 1925. In 1934, he was part of a Jewish rescue committee which helped German Jewish refugees to take shelter in Boulogne and when the Mayor of Outreau, Ernest Descl"ve, was taken prisoner, Carpentier took his place and continued to help Jews, such as the Czechoslovakian Jews, Ernest and Lily Dohan, and got them to safety at real personal risk, when the Germans forbade foreigners to live in the Red Zone.

He also became involved in the rescue of Jews from local concentration camps, including the Belgium Jew, Elias Merkreb, who had been prisoner at Hardelot Plage, Calais and Dannes and Condette. Merkreb, with 40 others, appears to have escaped a transport going via Boulogne and Carpentier, hid them with local French families; gave them false papers and ration cards enabling most to make their escape.

Railway workers also helped Jews escaping the camps by hiding them in their locomotives and the station master at Boulogne hid Edmund Weiss, a Czech Jew, after his escape for 8 days. Also local farmers hid Jews. Local people also helped Jews by throwing them food and cigarettes and helping escapees. David Shentow recalls how a local women recounted how she would throw bread to despondent prisoners near Condette, when the guards were not looking, and in one incident at Rang du Fliers, a German guard murdered a civilian for throwing cigarettes to German political prisoners.

Some local institutions hid Jewish children, such as 'Colonie Scolaire', at the local beach resort and health spa at Berck Plage and Berck had its own community of some 50 Jews at the start of the War. Furthermore, some medical staff at local hospitals, such as the Hospital of St Louis in Boulogne, sought to help Jewish prisoners. A local Resistance member also visited all of the local concentration camps at great personal risk and photographed them, at the request of London to find out about the Jewish workers, though it turned out to be impossible to find a way of sending the film back to London using carrier pigeons!

The Arithmetic of Transportation and Death for Jews from Nord Pas de Calais and in the Northern French Camps

The following lists the main transports of Jews from northern France and the camps though these transports were often combined with additional wagons with other deportees including women and children at Mechelen. The 4 main transports of Belgian Jews from the camps in France were numbers XIV, XV, XVI, XVII and Transport X was the main transport of the resident Jewish community in Nord Pas de Calais. Note the survival rates high-lighted for these transports.

Transport No. / Date / Total Nos. in Transport / Number of Repatriated

I (4.8.42, 1000 / 7)
IX (12.9.42, 1000 / 29)
X (15.9.42, 1047 / 12) **
XI (26.9.42, 1,745 / 30)
XII (10.10.43, 1,000 / 28)
XIV (24.10.42, 997 / 16) = 318 men - 11 male survivors*
XV (24.10.42, 476 / 28) = 314 men - 26 male survivors*
XVI (31.10.42, 994 / 61) = 759 men - 4 male survivors*
XVII (31.10.42, 939 / 43 = 645 men - 36 survivors*
XVII (15.1.43, 1,000 / 13)
XVIII (15.1.43, 1,000 / 13)
XIX (15.1.43, 626 / 8)
XX (19.4.43, 1,577 / 159)
XXI (31.7.43, 1,523 / 39)
XXII A (20.9.43, 655 / 51
XXII B (20.9.43, 815 / -)
XXIII (15.1.44, 644 / 101)
XXIV (4.4.44, 606 / 133)
Z (13.12.43, 134 / 68)
(c) Marcus Roberts (2015)

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